Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Okay, So I Begin Again

Like I really have time for this... but it's a little like the title of Wally Lamb's prison lady essay collection - I couldn't keep it to myself. So here we go.

I get a lot of email every day. I mean a lot. Like well over 200. It has become a two-plus hour daily activity to address the contents of my inbox. And it is relentless. There are no vacations. Even when I am on vacation, all I get to do is "notify" my senders, not stop the flow. A regular Energizer bunny, that email inbox!

The next questions are:
  1. "What is all that email?" and
  2. "Who sends it to me?"
It's got to mostly be junk, right?

Yes and no.

This is an approximation, but I might start documenting for a week because I am curious:
  • There's the yada yada yada work email. I am guessing that constitutes about 25% of my digital correspondence. Only I get much of that in duplicate and triplicate (because of my inability to redirect mail properly - never had a head for math, and it is clearly a mathematical problem), and most of my sender fields say Michelle Luhtala (again due to same inability to redirect other accounts mail in an intelligent fashion). The redirected mail from other accounts (like my school accounts – yes, that “s” is supposed to be there. There really are two work accounts – don’t ask) is a real problem, though. I tend to ignore emails that do not specifically indicate the sender by name until I have an email "catch-up" session. This can take days, weeks, hours...months (not necessarily in that order). So sometimes, I don’t answer colleagues for days, particularly if they don’t invent catchy subject lines. This is a bad thing. Actually, it is a very bad thing for a person whose job is to HELP people find answers to their questions!
  • There is my personal email - most of which is really just me and my daughter exchanging one or two liners about… oh jeez, everything! This might actually total 5%? Depends on how busy we both are.
  • Then there are the ads/promos - most of which I really did request- to keep informed about Book/Movie/Theater/Concert/Shopping updates. I really do look at most of this stuff - 10%?
  • News - I barely glance at this. I listen to news better than I read it. Thank you Mr. Gardener for allowing me to feel OK about that - it's an intelligence! And thank you NPR AND PRI for providing brilliant audio news coverage. Oh, and yeah for podcasting! 5%?
  • There is SPAM – lots of male enhancement stuff - most of which is redirected from one of my work accounts (I can't imagine how much we would get without the SPAM blocking software!)– 5%
  • Politicians asking for cash - always couched in some upbeat message about their most recent accomplishments. I have to say that this is my least favorite development that emerged from the 2008 Presidential election. 5%
  • Personal business – banking, bills, banalities, bananas (wait, not bananas – it just seemed like the next best thing to write in that list). 5%
So that’s what…60%, right? What about the other 40? I think this is where my inbox may differ from others, and the question I am getting at is this: Is the remaining 40% of my email junk or not?

For the most part, that 40% is not addressed to me personally, which makes it junk, right? But it is all generated by bloggers who write about things that interest me. Most people will tell me they don’t have time for all that. Neither do I. Trust me. And this is where the dilemma arises. Because if I follow through, process it, learn from it, pass it on, share it, catalog it, write about it, it is valuable information that helps me:

A) better understand emerging technology trends, and their impact on productivity

B) better understand the changing brains of young people thanks to A

C) know how to capitalize on A and B to be a better educator

So while reading all this information sucks time out of my day (kills my productivity), it helps me (and others) do many things better/smarter/more efficiently/more creatively, etc (improves productivity). In other words, it feeds my brain, keeps me thinking, presents challenges, new ideas, questions to ponder, problems to solve. It is the proverbial “lifelong learning” that engages me with the world.

So I guess you could say that 40% of my email isn't really email at all. It is what incrementally helps me get better at what I do. It is what inspires me to keep striving for growth and improvement. It is my IEP (Individualized Education Plan for you non-educators).

That was a really long way of saying I am going to resurrect this blog. And I am doing so to share what I learn from 40% of my email inbox.

PS These are the items that prompted me to write this entry today

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